Once a landlord has recovered possession of a property, a checkout report should be completed which records the cleanliness and conditions of the property when the tenancy ends. This is completed to identify if anything has changed from the start of the tenancy and to assess if there are any damages. Check-in and check-out reports are key documents and prove to be a strong piece of evidence for a landlord to rely on if they need to recover the cost of any repairs or work needed to the property. It is advised that the checkout is completed by an independent party and that the tenant is given an opportunity to attend the checkout.
If the checkout report details repairs are required, a landlord could try and claim against the deposit as the first resort. If the tenant does not consent to the deductions, then both landlord and tenant can agree to use the adjudication process through the deposit scheme. An independent adjudicator would look at evidence from both sides and decide if any deductions should be made, and depending on the scheme the procedures that apply may differ.
For example, a landlord may seek to recover £4,000.00 worth of damage as the checkout report shows damage to carpets, windows, bathroom, and kitchen. The adjudicator will look at what evidence there is of damage, as per the checkout report, and allocate an amount the damage is worth based on their own assessment. With the average deposit amount in the UK being £1,400, when a claim comes in higher, at £4,000 in this example, the full deposit amount would go straight to the landlord.
If the parties do not consent to use the adjudication process through the deposit scheme and an agreement cannot be reached on deductions, then the parties are left with court action. It is important during this time to be clear with the tenant about what repairs are required, as well as explaining the evidence you have of the damages. If the tenant understands how the damages have been calculated, this can lead to a resolution by communicating with the landlord before court proceedings take place.
Check-in and check-out reports are crucial evidence for the landlord when looking to recover the costs of damages, but it is also very important to have copies of invoices, quotes and any other reports. If a claim did proceed to court, a Judge would assess each head of the claim and make a finding whether liability rests with the tenant. Some Judges will require invoices rather than quotes for reassurance that the work has been completed. Invoices will also need to be itemised correctly so there is a clear breakdown of the costs.
Minor damages can still fall within fair wear and tear, so landlords expectations do need to be managed when recovering the costs from the tenant. For example, minor scuffs on the walls will not warrant the cost of a full paint job. Spray-painting the walls with some artwork will, however! The landlord should not end up either financially or materially in a better position, meaning a judge may only award a contribution on the cost of the repair to avoid the tenant arguing betterment down the line.
Tips for agents
-Ensure that the inventory/checkout report is completed by an independent party and the tenant has been given an opportunity to attend
-Ensure the tenant signs the document to confirm agreement
-If photographs are taken of the condition of the property, ensure there is a clear narrative
-Familiarise yourself with the deposit scheme processes and deadlines
-Consider if any damages are deemed fair wear and tear
-Ensure that any invoices are itemised rather than the total amount of repairs
-Communicate with the tenant and landlord throughout the process
Woodstock can assist to assess any potential damages claim to try and arrange a settlement with the tenant. This can include setting up payment plans between the landlord and tenant or if a settlement cannot be reached, then Woodstock can help a landlord issue a debt claim and obtain a county court judgment. If the tenant still does not pay, then Woodstock can assist to enforce the judgment through the debt recovery options available. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if any landlords want to go through the options to recover any money and one of the team will be happy to assist.